Musician Dagmar Turner, 53, has been playing the violin since she was 10. The instrument has become a major part of her life. Thus, she was terrified after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in 2013 after suffering a seizure during a symphony performance because it would mean she had to undergo an operation. Turner was afraid that she might lose her musical ability if something wrong happened during the surgery.
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Turner’s doctors made sure that the operation would be successful. They mapped out the different parts of her brain before the operation, particularly the areas that were active when she’s playing the violin. The doctors were aware that they needed to be extremely careful because the tumor was located in the right frontal lobe, which was near an area that controlled the movements of the left hand. During the procedure, neurosurgeon Keyoumars Ashkan asked the life-long violinist to play her instrument.
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In a statement, the King’s College Hospital in London said that Turner was asked to play the violin during the operation to “ensure the surgeons did not damage any crucial areas of the brain that controlled Dagmar’s delicate hand movements.”
“We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar, so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play. We managed to remove over 90% of the tumor, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity while retaining full function in her left hand,” Ashkan said.
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Normally, patients are often woken up during the operation—a procedure called awake craniotomy—so doctors can make sure their speech hasn’t been affected. They would have to do a quick language test while in surgery. However, a musical patient who played their instrument as a test was a first for the hospital.